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African press review 18 March 2013

In Kenya, the continuing row over the voter identification kits used in the election, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe's presence at the inaugural mass for Pope Francis and allegations of corruption in Zambia are all stories in today's newspapers in Africa..

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If I tell you that the headline reads "Poll team ignored advice on vote kit," can you guess which country I'm talking about?

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

Did somebody say Kenya? Right first time. The main front page story in this morning's Nairobi-based Daily Nation reports that the Kenyan electoral commission ignored advice from its Information and Technology Director and bought electronic voter identification kits, many of which failed on the day of the 4 March General Election.

An internal memo by the electoral commission's head of technology, Dismas Ong’ondi, warned of the risks posed by the kits, which were to be supplied by a South African firm.

In a memo dated 6 December 2012, Ong’ondi advised the election team not to award the kits tender to Face Technologies because of the risk that the equipment on offer might not work.

However, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission went ahead to award the tender against the advice of its IT chief.

In a separate story, the Daily Nation has the losing presidential contender, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, criticising the electoral commission for the way in which it conducted the 4 March General Election, describing the process as worse than the bungled 2007 polls.

Odinga said despite expressing confidence that it would ensure a free and fair election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had presided over a ‘sham’ process that unfairly denied him victory.

The Prime Minister, however, stated that he had already lodged a strong case at the Supreme Court and was confident that Kenya's higest judicial instance would overturn the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s fourth president.

The Nation also reports that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will attend this week's inauguration mass for Pope Francis.

A spokesman in Harare said that the veteran leader's trip will not be affected by the European Union travel ban because "the Vatican is a state on its own".

Mugabe, who has been widely condemned for human rights abuses, visited the Vatican in May 2011 for the beatification of the late pope John Paul II.

The 89-year-old Mugabe has been barred from travelling to the European Union for more than a decade because of concerns about vote rigging and rights abuses.

The Vatican is a sovereign city-state that is not part of the European Union, although to attend the inauguration ceremony Mugabe will have to pass through Rome.

The state-run Herald in Zimbabwe reports that Mugabe flew out on Sunday and has already arrived in the Vatican.

The main story in the Herald is, of course, devoted to the referendum, under the headline "‘Yes’ vote heads for landslide."

The state-run paper says that information filtering through indicates that most Zanu-PF strongholds in rural areas recorded a high turnout with the villagers overwhelmingly voting “Yes”.

Analysts say if these results are repeated in the forthcoming elections, then Zanu-PF is poised for a landslide victory.

MDC-T-controlled urban areas also voted in favour of the draft Constitution, but the turnout was disappointingly low in some areas.

The new constitution would limit future presidents to two terms.

Among other measures, the draft constitution proposes:

  • A bill of rights to protect freedom of expression
  • Devolution to provincial authorities
  • Scrapping the president's power to veto legislation
  • Halting legal challenges against land redistribution

President Mugabe's Zanu-PF is currently in a power-sharing deal with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

There's trouble brewing in neighbouring Zambia, if we're to believe the South African press.

According to the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay, Zambia has summoned former president Rupiah Banda to appear for questioning later today over alleged corruption, after parliament stripped him of immunity from prosecution, in what analysts see as a further assault on the opposition.

The weekend summons could mean the government is preparing official charges against Banda, who has been accused of abuse of office and the misappropriation of more than ten million euros of public funds during his three years as president.

Banda is the latest opposition leaders to face charges brought by the government of President Michael Sata, which claims that it is only concerned about fighting corruption, in line with its election pledges.

Opposition leader Nevers Mumba said stripping Banda of his immunity, the second time that had happened with a former president in Zambia, had heightened tension and anxiety in the usually stable country. The first time was against former president Frederick Chiluba, who was eventually acquitted on charges of corruption and abuse of office.

Banda, Mumba and others in both the opposition and civil society, want the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to investigate Zambia and stem a decline in democratic governance and respect for human rights.

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